Survive the season by taking our immunity
By Tannis McLaren and Bonnie McLachlan
you have a cold or the flu. You feel terrible, you
had to miss work, there's nothing on TV and you have no one
to whine to. While you are lying in your PJs surrounded by a
mountain of used tissues and a pharmacy of medicines, read on
to find out why and how to fightand prevent, the flu.
Know thine enemy There are differences between
a cold and the flu. A cold is caused by a virus and is usually
passed through hand-to-hand contact. The virus tends to land
itself smack-dab in your head, thus the sneezing, stuffy nose,
cough, headache, runny eyes and sore, scratchy throat. You will
sometimes even get a mild increase in your body temperature
by about 1 F.
The flu virus (there are many variations of it) tends to affect
the whole body. When you catch the flu, you can thank those
who sneeze, cough or talk near you because this is how it is
transferred. The symptoms come within 12 hours to three days
and you may experience weakness, tiredness, loss of appetite,
muscle aches, headache, a cough and a high fever that may increase
your normal body temperature by 23 F. These symptoms can
last anywhere from five days to two weeks.
Arm yourself Your best defence in beating the
cold and flu season is to boost your immune system, which sends
out an army of fighters when you are exposed to foreign invaders
such as viruses.
Irrespective of genetics and your childhood nutrition, there
are four key factors that help to maintain a strong immune system.
Hitting the snooze button. Shoot
for 68 hours of uninterrupted sleep. This is the time
your body repairs itself in order to go out and fight for you
the next day.
with stress. How well we cope with stressful situations
affects the strength of our immune system. When we have positive
thoughts and emotions, it is believed that we are more apt to
Smoking. Vitamin C, an important nutrient to combat infections,
is robbed from the body of smokers.
Eating well. Much of the food many of us eat has been
ground, processed, cooked, fried, baked, dehydrated and robbed
of its nutrients. These foods are high in simple carbohydrates
and hydrogenated oilsstressors on your immune system.
Load up on vegetables and fruit (not only because of their vitamins
and minerals but also their antioxidant powers) and consume
lots of immune-boosting garlic and onions (best if eaten raw).
Eat more good fats found in cold-water fish,
such as salmon, or supplement with flaxseed oil.
Eat more of the complex type found in brown rice, oats
and whole wheat.
more liquids throughout the day: 68 glasses of water.
Mix fresh fruit with plain, unsweetened yogurt at least
three times per week. Yogurt contains a friendly bacteria called
acidophilus and your body needs a lot of it to fight off the
bad guys. (If, however, you do get sick, you should avoid dairy
because it is mucus-producing.)
Natural Rx Though a positive, healthy lifestyle and
good eating habits increase the amount of important nutrients
available to your body, sometimes supplements are necessary.
When buying supplements and herbs pay attention to the quality
of the products. You should speak to a naturopathic doctor or
a certified herbalist to find the best quality and proper dosages
suited to you. Flu-fighters and immune system boosters include:
Vitamin C has long been known for
its ability to help prevent a cold or flu. Higher doses, such
as 35 grams, can be taken at the onset of feeling sick.
Vitamins A and E and selenium are
also very important because they enhance immunity and work synergistically
with vitamin C.
Zinc lozenges offer immune-fighting properties that can acutely
and preventively fight a cold or flu.
Astragalus is a Chinese herb that
may strengthen the immune system and is being used with cancer
patients. It is used in the prevention phase but is not to be
used during an actual cold or flu.
Echinacea has proven itself to
be important in not only preventing but also treating colds
Tips So you've taken our advice for boosting your
immune system, but still feel under the weather? Here are some
Soothe a sore throat with slippery-elm lozenges or sip
on some marshmallow-root tea.
If you have a cold in your nose, sip on a cup of peppermint
tea. Or put a few drops of eucalyptus and rosemary oil in a
bowl of steaming water, then place your head over the bowl and
cover with a towel to keep in the vapours. Inhale, but don't
A good combination for a cough includes the herbs coltsfoot,
white horehound and licorice.
The Flu-Shot Debate There
are many different strains of the flu virus and existing viruses
constantly mutate. Every year, federal health officials try
to predict which three strains of the virus will hit Canada.
Based on that guess, the next year's flu vaccine is prepared.
The vaccine only gives temporary immunity against those three
specific viruses, therefore it is suggested that you receive
the shot every year.
Keep in mind that the flu shot is only for viruses and not illnesses
caused by bacteria. Side effects such as fever, fatigue, painful
joints and headache are common. They can begin within 12 hours
of having the shot and can last several days.
you are allergic to eggs, you should not have the flu shot because
eggs are used in the labratory preparation of the vaccine. In
very rare cases (one in a million), the most serious reaction
associated with the flu vaccine is Guillain-Barré syndrome
(GBS), a nerve disorder characterized by muscle weakness, unsteady
gait, numbness, tingling, pain and sometimes paralysis of one
or more limbs or the face. The symptoms of GBS begin with numbness
in your feet.
Finally, whether or not the shot actually works for everyone
is still under debate. But Canadian health officials maintain
that being vaccinated against the flu should be an annual necessity.
The Ontario government now offers the flu vaccine to all residents
free of chargethe only province to do so.
Books and websites with information
on the flu shot:
The Immunization Decision
and The Vaccine Guide (North
Atlantic Books), both by Randall Neustaedter
Vaccination and Immunization: Dangers,
Delusions and Alternatives (C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd.),
by Leon Chaitow
Tannis McLaren is a practising naturopathic
doctor in Oakville, Ont. (www.naturopathic.ca). She is a graduate
of The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto.
Bonnie McLachlan is a practising intern at the CCNM.
published in Flare Magazine, December 2001